2017 English Channel swim

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Strait of Gibraltar Swim Association.....New Records

Rafael Gutierrez, President of the Strait of Gibraltar Swim Association (ACNEG), announced last week that starting in 2011, records for age categories will be established. This is exciting news for all marathon swimmers worldwide. It's been long overdue that swimmers should be recognized for their achievements in their designated age groups. I hope that other swim organizations will start to follow his leadership. Currently most of the major marathon swims throughout the world have records for the fastest man /woman and oldest man/woman and don't acknowledge age group records. Marathon swimming is becoming more popular every year and most athletes enjoy comparing their swim times to others in their age group. Rafael has the positive insight to move this sport forward. I would highly recommend for any marathon swimmer to attempt swimming the Strait of Gibraltar with ACNEG ...... Rafael and his crew are very dedicated to this sport and they make every attempt for a swimmer to be successful in their crossing. Thank you Rafael for adding these new record categories.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Congratulations Steven Munatones

Great news travels fast! Steven Munatones received the prestigious award "2011 Irving Davids / Captain Roger Wheeler Memorial Award" presented by the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame. This award was established many years ago to honor and recognize those who have made major contributions to marathon swimming. The Hall of Fame selected him because he is one of the finest individuals in this field. And he has become a world leader in marathon swimming. Steven is an accomplished marathon swimmer. Also, he coached for several years for the USA Swimming national open water swim teams. His websites, "Daily News of Open Water Swimming", "The Water is Open", and "Open Water Source" are the most comprehensive websites that I have visited. The list of his distinguished accomplishments is remarkable....I'm in awe. In addition, Steven has acknowledge marathon swimmers of all ages and not just the elite. His love of the sport is very evident. He deserves this special honor for all the hard work he has done. He has brought marathon swimming to a new level....... Well done, Steve! Congratulations!!!!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Impact of Mother Nature

Years ago when I started training for my very first marathon swim, I never thought that "Mother Nature" could possibly have a major influence in the outcome of a swim. After all, I trained very hard and my swim started with near "perfect" weather conditions......what could go wrong? I quickly learned that I was a bit naive. I thought that if I focused on taking "one stroke at a time" I would eventually reach the finish line..... I was wrong. In my 2008 English Channel attempt, "Mother Nature" provided very strong currents off the coast of France....my swim ended 1.7 miles from France. It was very disappointing not to complete that swim. I later learned that many well known marathon swimmers such as Penny Palfrey, Allison Streeter, Julie Bradshaw, Ned Denison, ....all have one thing in common....they had to abort a swim due to "Mother Nature", too. At the beginning of a swim, weather conditions can be perfect and suddenly turn to very treacherous seas. Safety of swimmer and crew is a priority. They learned from their experience and planned for another day. On their return, they succeeded in finishing their swim. My return to England in 2009 I saw the wrath of Mother Nature again.....and returned to Maine without a swim. Again, disappointed but I learned from my previous experience not to get discouraged. I plan to attempt the English Channel in August of 2011. When I swam the Strait of Gibraltar earlier this year, Mother Nature gave me a "big" surprise....wind, current and tides in my favor. I expected to finish my swim in about six and half hours but much to my surprise I set the new U.S. Woman's record with a time of 3 hours and 28 minutes. Again, another learning experience ...Mother Nature can sometimes have a positive impact on the outcome of a swim. If you are planning a marathon swim, prepare that "Mother Nature" may possibly decide the outcome of your swim. And realize that many of the world famous marathon swimmers had to abort a swim and attempt it another day. So, good luck with your training and hope that Mother Nature will be on your side.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Tragedy strikes again....

By now every swimmer in the world has heard about the tragic death of 26 year old, Olympic hopeful, Fran Crippen. This morning CNN reported that preliminary test revealed that Fran suffered a heart attack (October 25 CNN retracted their statement of "heart attack" and waiting for further test results ) while competing in the FINA 10-kilometer Marathon Swimming World Cup in the United Arab Emirates I was deeply saddened when I heard about his death. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends. It brought back very painful memories of my brother Robbie, who broke several swim records, too. And died suddenly and unexpectedly of a heart attack at the age of 34. After he died, I learned that in the United States heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. And globally, the World Health Organization (WHO) has predicted that by 2020 that the leading cause of death world wide will be heart disease. Their director, Dr. Robert Beaglehole said, "The old stereotype of cardiovascular disease affecting only stressed, overweight, middle aged men in developed countries no longer applied. Today men, women, and children are at risk." With Fran's untimely death, it brought those statistics to mind. In our swim community, we have raised awareness and money for several worthy causes such as cancer, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and several other causes. Today, I think it would be wonderful if our swim community would help bring an awareness of heart disease. This morning before my swim practice, I drew a small red heart on my swim cap to symbolize that I am joining the fight against heart disease. And on February 14, I will be swimming at my local pool to raise money for our local Heart Foundation. I am asking swimmers world wide to organize a swim in your hometown.....wear a red heart on your swim cap, and donate money to your local Heart Foundation. Please forward this posting to all swim clubs. Together we can make a difference. Thank you

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Strait of Gibraltar's Half Century Club

I recently read a wonderful article on the Strait of Gibraltar's Half-Century Club by Steven Munatones.  This club is exclusively for swimmers who have successfully crossed the Strait of Gibraltar after their 50th birthday.   His blogs "The Daily News of Open Water Swimming" "The Water is Open" and "Open Water Source" are the most comprehensive swim sites that I have visited.  He mentioned other "Half-Century" clubs for other well known swims such as Catalina, English Channel, Cook Strait and Molokai  Channel.  Because a swimmer has reached their 50th birthday, it doesn't mean their swim career is over.  It may be just the beginning to a very rewarding swim career.  In my case,  at the age 59 I had one the best swims of my life ...... In June, I set the U.S Woman's record for the Strait of Gibraltar swim with a time of 3 hours and 28 minutes and placed fastest time for the Half-Century Club among women and men since 1928.  I did not start this swim with the intention of breaking any records....I was blessed with perfect conditions.   If you are approaching your 50th birthday....celebrate...celebrate...celebrate.    And recognize that the best is yet to come.   Go for it!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

First open water swim

My first open water swim occurred in a mud puddle behind my home nearly fifty-five years ago. At the age of four, I wanted to learn how to swim and I asked my brother Tom, age 5, to teach me. It was a very hot summer day and I thought it was a great idea to learn how to swim in a mud puddle. Little did I know the hazards of swimming in dirty water.....When my mother discovered our little swim lesson, she had a good laugh, took this photo, and told me to "NEVER EVER" do that again. I listened to her. She signed me up for swim lessons and the rest is history.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Swimming Induced Pulmonary Edema

Every marathon swimmer and crew should be aware of "swimming induced pulmonary edema." It is a very serious medical problem that can develop while the athlete is swimming. Even the very young, healthy, well -conditioned athlete can experience a sudden onset of pulmonary edema. Research is ongoing. Some swimmers in wetsuits, non-wetsuits, cold water and warm water swims have experienced it. While swimming, the athlete may suddenly experience respiratory distress, shortness of breath, and coughing up frothy pink sputum. Some researchers have seen a correlation of over-hydration prior and during a swim and NOT urinating on a regular basis during the swim. While swimming a marathon event (English Channel), the swimmer and crew must be mindful of the amount of fluid that is being consumed. But more importantly, the swimmer must urinate on a regular basis (every few hours). If the swimmer does not urinate and continues to drink 300+ ml per hour, fluid overload will occur very quickly. This fluid will travel to the lungs and creates pulmonary edema. Immediate medical attention is required. In training, an open water swimmer should be very conscientious about urinating especially after a few hours of swimming. Some open water swimmers have to "stop" to urinate and others will urinate while swimming on the go. Regardless, a swimmer should plan to urinate at least every three hours during a marathon swim. Closely monitoring your intake and output during a marathon swim may help to avoid pulmonary edema.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Favorite pool toy

During my early training season of pool workouts, I include the use of my favorite "pool toy"...velcro ankle straps by Speedo. With my ankles strapped together, I swim freestyle (front crawl) and I closely pay attention to my balance in the water. I use my core strength to stay balanced. If my hips start to drop, I'll adjust my stroke and core until I'm perfectly balanced. Also, if I start to fishtail (swaying) then I know that my pull is unequal and I need to focus on equal pulling. Don't kick. Likewise, if your not balanced during bilateral breathing, your legs will sink. During flip turns, focus on using your core muscles to turn. It's a challenging workout that requires the swimmer to focus on their swim technique and core strength. The use of velcro straps is recommended for the intermediate and advanced swimmer. I purchased Speedo ankle straps online for under ten dollars.....great pool toy for the money. Give it a try and you may find that it becomes your favorite pool toy, too.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Corkscrew drill for open water training

Recently, I was asked what's my favorite open water drill during training season.   Without hesitating, I responded the corkscrew drill.  This drill helps to strengthen the core,  improves balance,  builds endurance, and helps fine-tune bilateral breathing.   There are many variations of this drill.  Some coaches recommend going from backstroke to freestyle after every stroke....for me,  it caused severe dizziness so I had to adjust the drill.   So this if my variation,  start off with the freestyle (front crawl).  After taking  three full strokes, while your right hand is near your right hip and your left hand is extended in front of your left shoulder, quickly rotate to your back, using your core strength to turn.  Do not use your hands to help with rotation.  Swim three full strokes of backstroke, then quickly rotate to the front crawl using your core strength.   Again, don't use your hands to rotate.  ***Be mindful of hand entry for both strokes***.  Enter each hand stroke  in line with your shoulder and don't cross the center line of your body.  Continue to swim a few strokes backstroke, rotate, few strokes freestyle, rotate, few strokes backstroke, etc.     Rotate core to the right for a few strokes and then rotate core to the left.  Incorporate this drill into you workouts for five minutes to start, then as your endurance builds extend your time.  This drill helped me when I swam the Strait of Gibraltar.   Five minutes into my swim a large wave loosened my goggles.  I quickly rotated to my back, adjusted my goggles and continued kicking while moving forward, then quickly rotated to the front crawl using my core strength.   One hour later I started having dry heaves from diesel fumes, instead of stopping, I quickly rotated to my back, continued with backstroke, moving forward .  My crew gave me some crystallized ginger to ease the nausea (it worked) ,  I quickly rotated to freestyle without stopping.   I completed my swim in record time......I believe my corkscrew drills in practice helped me to have one of my strongest swims.  I would highly recommend incorporating this drill into your swim practice.

Monday, September 20, 2010


Today I received this photo of Philippe Croizon from friends Evelyn and David from Dover, England.  Philippe  is a quadruple amputee who successfully swam across the English Channel in a time of 13 and 1/2hours.  He had his limbs amputated after a tragic electrical shock accident.  I am in awe of his accomplishment.   He is my new hero.   Such determination and spirit.  Congratulations, Philippe.   His next quest is swimming the Strait of Gibraltar.  Go, Philippe!! You're an inspiration. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Travel tips -- Strait of Gibraltar swim

The Strait of Gibraltar swim has become one of the most popular swim destinations in the world. This swim starts in Tarifa, the southern most point of Spain and ends in the northern part of Africa. On average a swimmer will swim approximately 9 miles depending on currents. Putting all swimming aside, travel tips are very important to having a fun, safe trip in Spain. My son and I booked with British Airways from Boston/Heathrow/ to Malaga Airport. We decided not to land in the smaller airport (Gibraltar). Travel by car from Malaga Airport to Tarifa was about one hour and fifty minutes. We rented a car from Avis---approximately $200 USD for eight days. I was glad we booked with Avis. Because when we arrived at the car rental area at the airport, we had no wait. However at the next counter there were about 100 people in line for one of their "local" discount car rentals.... their prices were similar. The drive to Tarifa was very easy....within a short distance of the airport is the main highway that leads directly to Tarifa. I would recommend this toll highway. I met some tourist that traveled by bus to Tarifa and they had no problems. The only bus station in Tarifa is a short walk from the old section of Tarifa. It's conveniently located. My son and I rented a condo through a local agency...Habitat Tarifa. We stayed at the "Residencial Los Lances II". It is located on the beach..we had ocean view, pool, fully equipped kitchen, with a washing machine, two bedrooms for $800 USD for eight nights. We swam everyday in front of our condo... it was a very safe and scenic area to swim. Also, it was about a ten minute walk to the "Old section" of Tarifa where the Strait of Gibraltar Swim Association office is located. We did not have Internet access at our condo. But we found a great little cafe "El Reten" that provided free Internet " Wifi Zone". Their food and drinks were reasonably priced. We booked for the second week of June because it is considered "low tourist season" and prices are very reasonable. I had read online that during the months of July and August prices are high, traffic is terrible, and it gets very hot. Many swimmers plan to swim either in June or September when Tarifa is less crowded. Tarifa at night is like any other tourist destination...you need to be careful. Travel in groups. I would highly recommend swimming the Strait of Gibraltar...the head of their association Rafael Guitterrez is very honest and wants to see every swimmer succeed in their attempt. Good luck with your swim and enjoy your trip.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Peaks to Portland Swim 2010

On Saturday, July 24, the 29th annual Peaks to Portland swim was held. Nearly 200 swimmers participated in this scenic 2.4 ocean mile swim across Casco Bay. The conditions were perfect for this annual fundraiser for the YMCA. Water temperature was a balmy 68 degrees....only 10 swimmers did not wear wetsuits. The YMCA did an incredible job in organizing this swim. This year was the first year for timing chips and it went very well. They gave awards to the wetsuit and non-wetsuit division for fastest man/woman's time. Also, awards were given for age groups. It was great to see so many swimmers, families, and friends having such a fun time at this event. The YMCA received over $15,000 in donations.... I would like to thank those who donated to such a worthy cause. I would like to extend my invitation to the international swim community to come to Maine and try our "Peaks to Portland Swim". It's usually held at the end of July. Registration opens in February 2011. You could plan a fantastic vacation around this swim. Portland has many fine hotels on the waterfront... numerous restaurants, and many activities within walking distance. You can contact me for further information at patgallant.charette@gmail.com Or contact the Cumberland County YMCA for information on next years' swim. Thank you and I hope to see you at next years' Peaks to Portland Swim.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Strait of Gibraltar video-- start of swim

Perfect conditions in the Strait of Gibraltar :-)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

U.S Woman's Record

Today I met with Rafael Gutierrez Mesa, president of the Strait of Gibraltar Swim Association (ACNEG). He said the fastest woman's record is held by Penny Palfrey from Australia with a time of 3 hours and 3 minutes, second place Rashmi Sharma (India ) former world record of 3 hours and 24 minutes, and third place with my time of 3 hours and 28 minutes. He said that I broke the U.S Woman's Record for fastest time for a solo crossing of the Strait of Gibraltar. I am absolutely shocked.......I never imagined that I would be leaving Spain with the U.S. Woman's Record and placing third fastest time for a woman since 1928. I believe my brother Robbie was looking down from heaven and asked Mother Nature to give me a break :-) Thank you, Robbie.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Swim Results

Today I swam the Strait of Gibraltar in a time of 3 hours and 28 minutes. The head of the Strait of Gibraltar Swim Association (ACNEG) said it was the 3rd fastest woman's time in their history. I am totally stunned. He said he has contacted the newspaper here in Spain and it will be in tomorrow's paper. Before I started my swim, I asked my son Tom to write my brother Robbie's name on my arm. When I finished my swim, I looked up to the sky and said, "This is for you Robbie." I want to thank my husband Jim for his endless support, my daughter Sarah for helping me train for this adventure, my son Tom who was a tremendous help on my crossing. And last, to all my friends, family, Barron Center Crew, and followers of my blog, thank you. It meant so much to me to receive such an outpouring of suppport.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Safety in cold water swims

Today, I started my open water training at Pine Point Beach. It was an absolutely gorgeous day--- mild breeze with air temp of 60 degrees and water temp of 46. I swam for a short time as planned. This early stage of transitioning from pool to ocean is gradual. When swimming in very cold water, safety is the main concern. One of my crew members will "spot" me while I swim in waist depth water parallel to the beach. I did not exhibit any symptoms of hypothermia. Each of us know the sign and symptoms of hypothermia---decreased stroke rate, spreading of fingers, and cramping of fingers. The swimmer must be alert to these early signs. Also, the swimmer must monitor their own thought process (hypothermia will cause slow thought process). If one hesitates in simple self-questioning of "date" "middle names of family members" etc., it's time to get out of the water immediately. Also, when the swimmer walks out of the water--- unsteady gait, slow garbled speech, and difficulty answering questions are signs of hypothermia. Before the swim, crew member and swimmer will have a plan of action if hypothermia develops.... blankets, warm clothing, warm liquids and an emergency plan. There is various degrees of hypothermia and each level needs to be taken seriously. The goal of cold water training for marathon swimmers is to have a safe swim without developing hypothermia. Remember be safe and have a fun swim.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


The chance of being attacked by a shark in the English Channel or off the coast of Maine (my home State) is nil. However, swimming in warmer waters there is a greater chance of having an encounter. Marathon swimming has become very popular with destination swims of Catalina Channel in California, Tampa Bay in Florida, Maui Channel in the Hawaiian Islands, Strait of Gibraltar in Spain, are a few of the top swims---all known as shark infested areas. Since I will be swimming the Strait of Gibraltar in June, I wanted to share some of the safety tips that I have learned. Remove all jewelry-- anything that sparkles may attract sharks. Don't wear shiny tinted goggles. Don't wear black, brown, tan, white, or yellow bathing suits--- sharks may interpret that your a seal or a fish. Australian Penny Palfrey, world queen of marathon swimming and International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame inductee, emailed me this morning and she recommended wearing "blend of blues" it looks like camouflage. She wore this type of bathing suit when she swam Santa Barbara Channel in California. I plan to follow these safety guidelines and have a safe fun swim.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Preventing motion sickness during a marathon swim

Several years ago when I started training for a marathon swim in the ocean, I experienced motion sickness (dizziness, nausea) from the swells. I was surprised because I thought that would happen to the boat crew not a swimmer. I was ill-prepared so I stopped my swim. Determined, I returned the following day with some over-the-counter medication (Dramamine). And I was stunned to experience the same ill effect after swimming in swells for a couple of hours. But I soon discovered some helpful remedies from other marathon swimmers. While swimming, look at land. If land is not visible, look at a cloud. Try to avoid looking at a rocking boat. If your boat is guiding you, than briefly glance at it every 15 to 20 strokes. Wear ear plugs--- this prevent water from moving back and forth on your eardrum (it works). Practice dry land exercises for balance--- close your eyes during these drills. Also, train in rough water conditions --you will become acclimated to swells. Just like your body becomes acclimated to cold water temperatures, it will acclimate to swells.